"My deepest desire is to live more unrestrained, more willfully, and more Chi Peng"
Chi Peng was born in 1981 in Shandong, studied New Media art in Beijing, and remained there. He uses photography and Photoshop to depict the odd combination of an inner and outer world, beyond reality but simultaneously extremely real. In many works, Chi Peng uses the image of himself, or perhaps one should rather say a copy of his own self. In the series At Large, we see innumerable Chi Pengs running blindly down corridors, through residential buildings, over a road crossing, along the Red Wall, chased by red aeroplanes. In the series Fuck Me, two Chi Pengs are making love uninhibitedly, at the office, in a phone booth, in a public lavatory, in a bathroom. He dazedly seeks to flee from pressure and fear, seeking himself at the same time.
Chi Peng himself has said of the artwork of the past ten years: "A process of finding myself. Before I felt confused, wanted to run, but in the end it ended up in my own self." Self-reflection is a key to understanding his work. The mirror images in Consubstantiality express this in the most direct manner. It is a kind of self-love, but is also related to self-searching. Chi Peng: "In the subconscious, you can suddenly find that another You lives in this world, and you want to find him. In actual fact, he is very close to you and can clearly let you see another part of yourself."
In China, it is very rare for an artist to openly admit to being homosexual. But through artists like Chi Peng, one can discern the hope for a Chinese society on its way developing a greater plurality of values. The series Fuck Me depicts unbridled homosexual coitus. There is no-one else present in the office landscape; the lavatory door is open, suggesting that Chi Peng doesn't care what anyone else might think. The pedestrian crossing sign contains two men in a challenge to heteronormativity. Once the viewer has been surprised by the encounter with the uninhibited, a deeper understanding may grow, for the artist's honesty towards himself and the way the art clutches on to reality.
Chi Peng's work also contains much critical afterthought on society, politics and tradition. But what separates him from older generations of artists is that this thought starts from the individual's point of view, not that of a generation or collective. This individuality and artistic expression is more directly affecting, and represents the potential of the new generation of artists. In Journey to the West – Now-ing, Chi Peng transforms himself, in the shape of the Monkey King Sun Wukong (an incarnation of the "problem child" and rebel), into King Kong. He stands with his back turned to the viewer (standing with the viewer), weapon in hand, ready for battle. The Gate of Heavenly Peace, leading to the Forbidden City, symbolises traditional culture and political power. The gorilla that lies on this very symbol of China might be from a Hollywood movie. The influence of Western culture's hegemony in China is also the subject of the Monkey King's challenge. The work is infused with fearless spirit and societal criticism.
Mood Is Never Better than Memory – February, an apparently saccharine work, actually contains something else, an absence of choice. The traditional Chinese family view forces many homosexuals to marry in order to accommodate their parents' wish for grandchildren to carry the line further. In this respect, Chi Peng also experiences great pressure. In conversation with him, he told me that he and his boyfriend were considering adopting a child. His parents say "It doesn't matter to us how you live, as long as you can give us a grandson". In the picture, an elderly couple is seen further down on the jetty, and at some distance – the distance between generations? – two men calmly walking with a child. I personally think that if they have adopted the child out of choice and not to satisfy their parents' wishes, it could be a depiction of a Chinese homosexual Garden of Eden.
In Chi Peng's reality-transcending images, I see a true individual, an idealist who does not give way to reality.
Si Han, Curator
1981: born in Yantai, Shandong, 1981
2005: graduated from the Digital Media Dept., Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing
Lives and works in Beijing